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Rediff.com  » Sports » Champions League is all Cech wanted for his birthday

Champions League is all Cech wanted for his birthday

May 21, 2012 10:00 IST

Petr Cech celebrated a perfect 30th birthday on Sunday after producing another exceptional goalkeeping performance to help Chelsea land their first Champions League trophy.

The Czech had a shaky first half of the season but his revival in form has run parallel with the club's overall resurgence since Roberto Di Matteo took over as interim coach in March, and he played a major role in Saturday's 4-3 penalty shootout win over Bayern Munich.

Petr Cech"I said prior to the game that if we win the trophy I don't want a birthday cake and this is the best present I can get," Cech said. "It's a dream come true.

"There were six penalties and I went the right way all the time and saved three, so I was well prepared. It's incredible we have finally got the trophy."

Cech, as he has done so frequently in his eight years with Chelsea, provided an inspirational barrier in goal as Bayern dominated most of the initial 90 minutes and the additional half hour.

He saved Arjen Robben's penalty in extra time and then thwarted Ivica Olic and Bastian Schweinsteiger in the shootout amid wild scenes of jubilation among his team mates.

"We lost the Champions League final to Manchester United in Moscow four years ago and we hoped for another chance," said Cech, who has made 87 appearances in the competition and has 89 caps for his country.

"The chance came, and in a moment when nobody expected it, we grabbed it."

Former England international Peter Bonetti has always been regarded by Chelsea supporters as the club's greatest keeper, following his 20 years of service in the 1960s and 1970s.

However, Cech has won a host of medals in his time at Stamford Bridge, including three Premier League titles, and is now rightly considered to be at least on a par with Bonetti.

Ivory Coast forward Salomon Kalou, given a new lease of life under Di Matteo after being consistently ignored by the Italian's predecessor Andre Villas-Boas, said the unity of the squad was a feature of Chelsea's triumph on Saturday.

"It was destiny for us to win it," said Kalou. "It was also team spirit and togetherness. What a wonderful moment for us."

Midfield playmaker Juan Mata has wowed the Chelsea fans since arriving from Valencia at the start of the campaign, and the club's player of the season summed up the mood of euphoria among the players.

"We are very happy," said the diminutive Spaniard. "We believed in ourselves and this is what it means to play for Chelsea. We've made history."

Photograph: Dylan Martinez/REUTERS

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